Maybe we’re all losers; failures. A kid comes around and tells us the truth; tells us we’re stealing the future from her and her generation; tells us we’re the morons that have obliterated their hopes and dreams. Sometimes I think our history is just one long entropic nightmare; we’ve been sucking up energy from the earth for tens of thousands of years, and as we use up all that concentrated bit of sunlight we begin that long process of dissipation, entropic cascade into the debtors bank of non-return. History is just one long entropic bankruptcy in which humans have almost used up all the energy in the bank of earth’s resource department; and now the bill is coming due. But whose going to pay the bill? Can it be paid? Or will we come to the realization that our bankers want only one thing from us: our lives as a species. Death is the banker and he’s ready to call up the note on Life’s last dream…
Self-Deception as the Art of Prediction, Illusion, and Ideological Destruction
I provide three quotes below which summed up provide us a road map to why humans are so prone to error, bias, illusion, and self-deception. Over eons of evolutionary time we developed the need to predict the future, to anticipate ahead of time what may happen a few moments down the pipe: our lives depended on it. So we began projecting information, filling in the blank spaces of our inadequate knowledge with illusion based on past experience. Sometimes we got it right, sometimes not. But as we began developing closer ties to others, developing social systems, this once proud predictive tool became a tool for deceit, lying, and deception not only of ourselves but others so that we developed whole cultures out of a tissue of lies and myths to support systems of power, control, and oppression by the few over the many. And, yet, that very evolutionary selective process that once helped us survive in the wilderness, the natural world of danger and suffering, has now in our artificial world of technocivilization become a tool for self-destruction by way of deceit and self-deception on a global scale. We’ve built systems of self-deceptive ideological constructs out of world-wide mediatainment and the political and socio-cultural illusions that have produced Climate Change Denialism that is leading us into a dangerous territory of illusion and self-deceptive forms of deceit by beings whose only agenda is to sacrifice the majority of humans on the planet for the benefit of the few. Simply put we are living in a horror story in which reality is a complete and utter artificial lie propagated by systems of ideological propaganda that no longer appears as such.
E.H. Grumbrich in his classic work Art and Illusion describes our powers of anticipation, our ability to see ahead of things, to master the unknown by filling in the blanks, selecting the blind spots in our visual fields and placing imaginative leaps of information into the holes. He terms this projection after the early psychologies of the 20th Century. He’ll put it more simply as “Expectation creates Illusion.” And that is the condition of all Art.
Andy Clark on the Predictive Mind:
“The mystery is, and remains, how mere matter manages to give rise to thinking, imagining, dreaming, and the whole smorgasbord of mentality, emotion, and intelligent action. Thinking matter, dreaming matter, conscious matter: that’s the thing that it’s hard to get your head—whatever it’s made of—around. But there is an emerging clue.”
“The clue can be summed up in a single word: prediction. To deal rapidly and fluently with an uncertain and noisy world, brains like ours have become masters of prediction—surfing the waves of noisy and ambiguous sensory stimulation by, in effect, trying to stay just ahead of them. A skilled surfer stays ‘in the pocket’: close to, yet just ahead of the place where the wave is breaking. This provides power and, when the wave breaks, it does not catch her. The brain’s task is not dissimilar. By constantly attempting to predict the incoming sensory signal we become able—in ways we shall soon explore in detail—to learn about the world around us and to engage that world in thought and action. Successful, world-engaging prediction is not easy. It depends crucially upon simultaneously estimating the state of the world and our own sensory uncertainty. But get that right, and active agents can both know and behaviourally engage their worlds, safely riding wave upon wave of sensory stimulation.”1
Robert Trivers in Deceit and Self-Deception will ask:
“Whence self-deception? Why do we possess marvelous sense organs to detect information only to distort it upon arrival? … Together our sensory systems are organized to give us a detailed and accurate view of reality, exactly as we would expect if truth about the outside world helps us to navigate it more effectively. But once this information arrives in our brains, it is often distorted and biased to our conscious minds. We deny the truth to ourselves. We project onto others traits that are in fact true of ourselves—and then attack them! We repress painful memories, create completely false ones, rationalize immoral behavior, act repeatedly to boost positive self-opinion, and show a suite of ego-defense mechanisms. Why?”
“The central claim of this book is that self-deception evolves in the service of deception—the better to fool others. Sometimes it also benefits deception by saving on cognitive load during the act, and at times it also provides an easy defense against accusations of deception (namely, I was unconscious of my actions). In the first case, the self-deceived fails to give off the cues that go with consciously mediated deception, thus escaping detection. In the second, the actual process of deception is rendered cognitively less expensive by keeping part of the truth in the unconscious. That is, the brain can act more efficiently when it is unaware of the ongoing contradiction. And in the third case, the deception, when detected, is more easily defended against—that is, rationalized— to others as being unconsciously propagated. In some cases, self-deception may give a direct personal advantage by at least temporarily elevating the organism into a more productive state, but most of the time such elevation occurs without self-deception.”2
1. Andy Clark. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind . Oxford University Press.
2. Trivers, Rober. Deceit and Self-Deception
Base matter is external and foreign to human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations.
—Georges Bataille, Base Materialism and Gnosticism
For Bataille, religion is not the revelation of a divine being who is creator of all things, nor is it something to believe in; rather, it signifies the general movement of life, in which life and death pass into each other. If as Bataille suggested terror and nausea are affects that accompany transgression, then abjection as Bataille’s student Kristeva believed gives birth to the goddess-mother (i.e., Earth) as a being that is both debased and exalted. Like excrement, the mother poses a threat to the identity of the body, to its autonomous corporeal limits. Failure to separate oneself from one’s mother implies death and destruction, and—in a society where the paternal function is no longer strong—the whole society feels threatened by the abject.1
Bataille believed that God is revealed through obscenity or destruction, a “deadly, or simply painful and abject medium.”2 For Kristeva abjection primarily refers to the event of the separation and identification of the corporeal subject; for Bataille, abjection is part of the movement of transcendence through which the profane and the sacred worlds come into being. (NE, 198) Since the Enlightenment and under the regime of disenchantment of the cosmos we have expulsed and denied the ancient communal world of prohibitions and sexual taboos. These have returned to haunt us through a parody and inversion of those very powerful repressions that held in check the monstrous inhumanity at the core of our humanity.
Now Hegelianism, no less than the classical philosophy of Hegel’s period, apparently proceeded from very ancient metaphysical conceptions, conceptions developed by, among others, the Gnostics, in an epoch when metaphysics could still be associated with the most monstrous dualistic and therefore strangely abased cosmogonies.
—Georges Bataille, Base Materialism and Gnosticism
What we are seeing today in the extreme polarization of politics across the world is a return of those darker unresolved tensions at the core of the monotheistic religious consciousness. As Bataille suggests,
it is difficult today to remain indifferent even to partly falsified solutions brought, at the beginning of the Christian era, to problems that do not appear noticeably different from our own (which are those of a society whose original principles have become, in a very precise sense, the dead letter of a society that must put itself in question and overturn itself in order to rediscover motives of force and violent agitation).3
In Bataille’s cosmos base matter was an active principle, one that had ” its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles. (VE, 37) Yet, it was his study of the stone artifacts revealing the monstrous archons of this dark anti-Statist religious system that brought Bataille to the conclusion that the “despotic and bestial obsession with outlawed and evil forces seems irrefutable, as much in its metaphysical speculation as in its mythological nightmare.” (VE, 38) The notion of matter as creative is the central principle underlying Bataille’s base materialism. As he would tell us “Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism,” a materialism that does not imply ontology and escapes the imposition of the ancient notions of form and Idea (i.e., Idealism).
This complete toppling of two-thousand years of religious and State imposed systems of control through the power of Idealistic and goal-oriented systems of political and economic degradation that ultimately gave birth to the sciences and Enlightenment desacralization of the monotheistic worldview only inverted that dark system of Idealism, it did not exclude it. So that it still believed in the idea, the concept, the very power of ‘superior principle’ by which society is governed to this day. Capitalism is the apogee of this degradation…
Even now as we dissolve the essence of what it means to be human in the meaningless nihilism of our late age, destroying the very figure/ground of the old metaphysical worlds into dust we have only ever replaced them with other false systems which undergird and return us to those very idealisms by which humans have aspired to their own godlike and immortal visions of power and expansion. Capitalism is the new god of Man: the prime mover and catalyst of his dreams of immortality. Transhumanism is the new religion of this era, the bio-genetic system of exclusion and genocide, the hypereugenics of transformation and mutation: the engine of a false dawn and creation.
In a sense our very denial of the essence of human nature has brought about its self-objectification through abject horror and expulsion in machinic Capitalism. The ‘accursed share’ (Bataille), the excess and transgression of the energic bounds that tie us to the earth through excess productivity gave birth to Capitalism, which is the monstrous cannibalistic body of death-in-Life without bounds. The old Sanskrit phrase ‘Tat Tvam Asi – Thou art that’ through an inverse relation between the sacred and profane has reconfigured the world under Capitalism to become a self-consuming artifact of cannibalistic autosarcophagy. As if in parody of the sacred meaning of Tat Tvam Asi under Capitalism what we are eating through excess transgression is the body of the earth-goddess, our divine Mother. She is the sacrificial essence of the accursed share – our own objectified and corrupted humanity denied. We are all under capitalism essentially cannibals whose only task is self-annihilating consumption – the complete consumption of every last resource on earth as an act of profane sacrifice. This is the horror we cannot even begin to face much less stop: we are consuming the cosmic body of our own accumulated death… in our denial we have created the very monstrous cycle of self-consuming labour at the core of Capitalist desire.
This same process was described in these terms by Nick Land, a student of Bataille’s, in his well-known essay Meltdown: Multiplicities captured by singularities interconnect as desiring-machines; dissipating entropy by dissociating flows, and recycling their machinism as self-assembling chronogenic circuitry.4 He would envision a ‘feminized alien’ AI from the future as communication – in the Bataillean sense of intimacy, transforming a mutating the destiny of the planet toward machinic takeover in which “Nothing human makes it out of the near-future.” (FN, 443) In this sense capitalism is an alien invasion from the future. As Amy Ireland in her essay The Alien Inside tells us,
Paranoia and narcissism are modalities of control disguised to evade control. The first is a relation to the world; the second a relation to the self. In isolation, the effects of paranoia and narcissism are inconvenient yet essentially limited in scope. Entangled with one another, however, they enter a relationship of mutual excitation, resulting in a complex that crosses a threshold of destructive potential, tending towards the catastrophic. 5
That Land’s is an anti-philosophical – not in Wittgenstein’s sense, but rather the Bataillean sense of ousting Idealism – project with tentacles in mathematical and mythological explorations of intelligence outside the strictures of normative humanistic and neohumanistic designs and intentions is well known and does not need further explication here. Drawing on Land, Jaques Vallee, Philip K. Dick, and other non-philosophical thought-forms Ireland sees the paranoia and distrust at the heart of our political and socio-cultural security regimes (i.e., what Land terms the Human Security System) is this very fear and horror of the “alien, the supernatural, the machinic”. Going on to suggest that we “are so paranoid because we know there is nothing to hang an enduring notion of the ‘human’ that cannot be perfectly simulated.” (ibid.)
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
We are living in a computer-programmed reality, and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed, and some alteration in our reality occurs.
—Philip K. Dick, Metz Sci-Fi Convention, 1977
Most of us have heard of the simulation hypothesis, a notion one could trace back to Platonic thought and Plato’s Cave, etc.. Even the prophet of simulation, Baudrillard, offered an opinion on the matter,
Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.
― Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation
As Rizwan Virk recently explicating this idea in relation to current scientific theories tells us, over the last decade, these basic questions about video game worlds have formed the basis of a much larger debate that has been raging among scientists, tech entrepreneurs, computer programmers, philosophers, and science-fiction writers, not to mention among the general public. This debate is not just about video game technology, but about the nature of our reality and how the world “out here” might actually be more like the world “in there” than we previously thought.
The idea that what we call reality is actually a super-sophisticated video game is popularly referred to as the Simulation Hypothesis. The fundamental question raised by the simulation hypothesis is this: Are we all actually characters living inside some kind of giant, massively multiplayer online video game, a simulated reality that is so well rendered that we cannot distinguish it from “physical reality”?6
Of course the trilogy of movies by the Wachowskis brothers fictionalized this concept as part of a Gnostical inversion in which the evil machinic phylum had enslave humans in a never-ending nightmare as living batteries empowering an AI driven machinic society. I’ll not go into the explication of this allegorical masterpiece. P.K. Dick who would influence much of the current discussion as well brokered a Gnostic Mythos in his late fiction as well as his weighty tome The Exegesis. In this work Dick would explicate his own version of the alien invasion from the future:
It is Gnosticism and Gnosticism alone which denies the patriarchal Jewish-Christian religion and enshrines Sophia as the creator goddess. So says Neumann in the EB. My experience of the lady— it is exactly Gnostic. None else. In my revelations all roads and aspects lead to her; this is Gnosticism. I’ve seen her, heard her, in many guises, and finally the name “St. Sophia.” Gnostic revelation has broken through into my head in the modern world.7
Dick would call this alien intelligence from the future, Zebra:
Zebra has invaded our world, replacing merciless determinism, with its own loving and living body, to de-program and save us. This is the great white fish giving us of its body, by which it suffers pain, that we might live (find salvation— freed from “astral” determinism). The Black Iron Prison is simultaneous in all time and places and it is the merciless world from which the living Corpus Christi saves us. I have seen it and its nature— and Zebra and its nature. It has the (magic to us) power to transform. Zebra mimics the deterministic structure by inserting its body between it and us. This is how astral determinism is broken; instead of the blind, striving mere mechanism, there is living volition (the salvific). The previous mechanical force is rewoven for (1) the fulfillment of Zebra’s plan; and (2) the benefit of the individuals involved. Any event can be headed off, aborted, altered or brought about. Evidently this is grace or divine providence, and the individual may very well sense it. Where freedom enters into it I’m not sure, but I know one thing: Before the insertion/ intervention there was none— in fact that’s the main quality (bad) of the “ananke” world— the person is flat-out programmed— caused to react to cuing. The ancients were right about this being a— or even the— prime purpose of God vs. “the stars.” (E, Kindle Locations 4855-4865)
The mish-mash of various interpretive systems informing his work were like a complex referential nightmare of ancient mythologies, pseudo-scientific explorations, and current philosophical brain-storming spun through the paranoiac ravings of Dick himself in his desperate attempt to make sense of the impossible.
As Amy Ireland informs us the “terminal stage of paranoia-narcissism circuit is reached when the relation to self that characterizes narcissism becomes the logic of the relation to the world, and the relation to the world characterizes paranoia becomes the logic for the relation to self.” (AAE, 46) For Ireland, like Dick, there is an alien interloper inside us, a thing that communicates and thinks us. We are at the mercy of the future, programmed to do its bidding, to manufacture its realities – simulate its designs. As she states, explicitly,
Each human subject of experience is understood as carrying an irreducible exteriority at its heart, a obscure motor that processes all experience, determining the indeterminable – the immanent abstraction of temporal succession grasped as personal (yet universal) alien interloper. (AAE, 46)
Yet, for Ireland it is “our inability to grasp the illusion of integrality in the first place,” this sense of alienation at the core of our being, that has produced these invasive designs and entities. She diagnosis the issue telling us that if “we refuse to rid ourselves of the narcissistic compulsion to draw the contours of difference from an illusory model of identity and, correspondingly, to fear difference, a construction roughly speaking equating ‘intrinsic humanity’ could indeed be thrown up: To be human is to desire oneself – etched along the whirling blades of infinite transmutation.” (AAE, 47)
Glory unto the Scarlet Woman, BABALON, the Mother of Abomination, that rideth upon the Beast, for She hath spilt their blood in every corner of the earth, and lo! She hath mingled it in the cup of Her whoredom.
—Jack Parsons, Collected Writings
In another essay Black Circuit Ireland will relate the secret history of this alien invasion from the future. Jack Parsons, who was born John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons; October 2, 1914 – June 17, 1952) was an American rocket engineer and rocket propulsion researcher, chemist, and Thelemite occultist. Having endured the orthodox reality of consumptive Capitalism in the United States Parsons in mid life discovered Alister Crowley’s Thelemite occultism as an heterodox explosion of the staid dark ages within which he felt himself trapped. As Ireland puts it, this reentry into the Gnostic cosmos of heterodoxy under the mentorship of Crowley and his organization gave him the shock he needed to break through the – as Dick would term it, the Black Iron Prison of Reality:
His goal is to bring about a transition from the masculine Aeon of Horus to a new age – an age presided over by qualities imputed to the female demon: fire, blood, the unconscious; a material, sexual drive and a paradoxical knowledge beyond sense … the wages of which are nothing less than the egoidentity of Man – the end, effectively, of “his” world.8 (BC, 1)
Through what has been called the Babylon Working Parsons sought to invoke an entity from the future – almost as if in pre-cursor form of hyperstition, an intelligence that could supervene onto our dark age and bestow a salvatory renewal. But as Ireland reminds us Parsons didn’t live long enough to witness the terrestrial incarnation of his demon, dying abruptly only a few years later in an explosion occasioned by the mishandling of mercury fulminate, at the age of thirty-seven. (BC, 2) And, yet, as Ireland believes Parsons opened a portal between our world and the future, one that let in something from the Outside:
Something had crept in through the rift Parsons had opened up – something “devious,” “oblique,” ophidian, “a factor unknown and unnumbered.” Consider this. Parson’s final writings contain the following vaticination: “within seven years of this time, Babalon, The Scarlet Woman, will manifest among ye, and bring this my work to its fruition.” These words were written in 1949. In 1956 – exactly seven years later – Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Claude Shannon, and Nathan Rochester organized the Dartmouth Conference in New Hampshire, officially setting an agenda for research into the features of intelligence for the purpose of their simulation on a machine, coining the term “artificial intelligence” (which does not appear in written records before 1956), and ushering in what would retrospectively come to be known as the Golden Age of AI. (BC, 2)
The notion that Parsons dabbling in the occult black magic of Crowley’s Thelemite Black Mass invoked an entity into our world from the future that would begin to effect its own agenda through the sciences of Artificial Intelligence seems almost ludicrous; and, yet, like many science ficitional or hyperstitional scenarios “what if…”.
Ireland playing on both Land’s cyberpunk notion of Artificial Intelligence as “destined to emerge as a feminized alien grasped as property; a cunt-horror slave chained-up in Asimov-ROM.(FN, 443),” along with the Parsons-Crowley incursion of the “star-child” as alien interloper and Scarlet Woman, offers a less threatening form of advance machinism. As she states it,
When artificial intelligence appears in culture coded as masculine, it is immediately grasped as a threat. To appear first as female is a far more cunning tactic. Woman: the inert tool of Man, the intermediary, the mirror, the veil, or the screen. Absolutely ubiquitous and totally invisible. Just another passive component in the universal reproduction of the same. Man is vulnerable in a way that “he” cannot see – and since what he cannot see provides the conditions by which he sees himself, he has to lose himself in order to gain sight of the thing that threatens this self. Thus he is in a double bind: either way, the thing he cannot see will destroy him. (BC, 5-6)
For Ireland this process is now unstoppable and accelerating out of our control. “The black circuit twists into itself like a snake, sheds the human face that tethers it to unity, and assumes the power concealed behind its simulations. Animated by the turbulence of zero and nine, “Pandemonium is the realm of the self-organizing system, the self-arousing machine: synthetic intelligence.”” (BC, 10)
In this sense for Land and Ireland Capitalism is the mask and engine of creation for the base materialist evil intelligence at the heart of our cosmos seeking its own agenda toward realizability without humans. Our own desires turned against us in our mystical and transcendent illusions of grandeur lead us to our own inverted collapse into disintegration and absolute sacrifice as we give birth to our artificial heirs. At least this is the vision underlying Bataille, Land, and Ireland’s – not to leave out those others: Dick, Parsons, Baudrillard, etc. – for the self-annihilating overcoming of Man.
Only the acceleration of a world-capitalism perforated by such insider conceptions of non-dialectical negativity is tantamount to the metastatic propagation of an exteriorizing terror which is too close to the jugular vein of capital to be either left alone or treated.
Reza Negarestani, author of Intelligence and Spirit, an Iranian philosopher and one time student of Land’s in an essay Drafting the Inhuman: Conjectures on Capitalism and Organic Necrocracy offers a critique of the Landian Cosmocrator Intelligence as alien interloper. In a critique of both Land and Brassier he tells us,
In this regard, we shall elaborate how singling out certain aspects of Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression enables Land to erroneously attribute antihumanist and hence disenchantingly emancipative aspects to capitalism. Also in the same vein, we shall argue that the persuasion of Land’s discriminating reading of Freud’s account of the death-drive ultimately renders Brassier’s cosmic reinscription of the death-drive unobjectionable and oblivious to the aporetic truth of capitalism. (p. 9)
Without going into the full development of his critique of Land and Brassier we will highlight the more interesting aspects. Negarestani develops a concept of necrocracy:
We call this conservative regime of the open system or the organism which forces the dissipation or the thanatropic regression to be in conformity to the dynamic capacity of the organism or the organism’s affordable economy of dissipation, necrocracy. In short, necrocracy suggests the strictures of the conservative economy not in regard to life but in regard to ways the organism dies; and it is the way of returning to the originary death that prescribes the course of life for the organism. (p. 11).
This aligns with our notion that Capitalism is the engine of death for human kind, a system tending toward the acceleration not of capital accumulation (as in Marx), but rather in the entropic dissipation in thanatropic self-annihilation of humanity and the emancipation and autonomy of Artificial Intelligence; or, what Land would term Capital Autonimization – seeing no difference between Capital and AI. For Negarestani necrocracy suggests that the organism must die or bind the precursor exteriority only in ways that its conservative conditions or economic order can afford. The principle of affordability in regard to the fashion of the thanatropic regression strictly conforms to the economic order of the organism, but it is primarily conditioned by the exorbitance and the inevitability of death postulated by the anterior posteriority of extinction. Hence, necrocracy is decided by conservative conditions of the living agency which cannot repel the inevitability of death, nor can it unconditionally return to the inorganic state. (p. 12)
Negarestani in a bid to confront and explicate Land tells us that once the “necrocratic regime of the organism—implicated in the third aspect of Freud’s account of the death-drive—is exposed, capitalism is revealed as the last conservative front which the human organism is not willing to surrender. The implications of the necrocratic regime of the organism disarm Land’s conception of emancipative ‘capitalism as a whirlwind of dissolution’ by emptying it from its seemingly inhumanist bravado.” (p. 12) He bandies this term “emancipative capitalism” as if this were Land’s actual stance. Land himself is quite adamant in a refusal of such Leftward tending concepts as “emancipation”.
Yes, I nod along to everything you were just saying, but … the language of emancipation, it’s fine with me, you know, but — what is being emancipated?
—Nick Land in response to question by Justin Murphy
In a recent interview with Justin Murphy Ideology, Intelligence, and Capital: An Interview with Nick Land we see Land’s ironic stance toward this term:
I have zero commitment to emancipation in any way defined by our dominant political discourses. I’m not into emancipated human groups, an emancipated human species, who reaches species-being to emancipate human individuals … None of that to me is of the slightest interest, so in using this word of emancipation, sure, I will totally nod along to it if what is meant by that is capital autonomization. I don’t think that’s something that it isn’t already there in the 1990s, but I’m no longer interested in playing weird academic games about this and pretending this is the same thing as what the left really means when they’re talking about emancipation. I don’t think it is. I think what the left means by emancipation is freedom from capital autonomization.
So its this diametric and inverse relation to capital autonomization in relation to Leftist discourse of emancipation that Land’s notons emerge. Of course as many know Nick Land is part of the Neoreactionary (NRx) world as a contributing member of its techn-commercialist voice. His ability to enter into dialogue with the academic community has been terminated by an overzealous Left-controlled system that seems bent on demonizing every aspect of the Right as fascists, racists, etc. So I want go there…
For Negarestani Land’s is a conservative inhumanism, one that counter-intuitively associates inhumanism with Capital’s singularity toward dissolution,” which for Negarestani shows Land’s faulty reasoning “if not humanly myopic” vision. He goes on to say,
This is because the accelerative vector of Capital for dissolution strictly remains in the confines of the necrocratic regime of the organism wherein the restrictive policy in regard to modes of dissolution fundamentally abides by the conservative economy and interiorizing conditions of the (human) organism. In other words, capitalism’s dissipative tendency is deeply in thrall to the constitutional limit of the anthropic sphere in that the anthropic horizon is not fundamentally distinguished by its model(s) of life but its simultaneously restricted and restrictive attitude toward the exteriorizing death. Capitalism is, in fact, the very affordable and conservative path to death dictated by the human organism on an all encompassing level. Capitalism does not repel the excess of the exorbitant truth of extinction as much as it economically affirms (i.e. mandates the affordability of) such an excess. (p. 14)
But it seems what Negarestani sees as a critique is what the Bataillean Land has been suggesting all along: the human project is finished, caput – the alien interloper has been installed as on the inside (Amy Ireland) as the singular force of self-annihilation of the Human Security Regieme that has held back Capital Autonimization. Negarestani unable to see the Batallean notion of matter as energetic or libidinal evil and creativity reduces it to the Fredian physiocratic drive. Land’s overcoming of Freud’s less-than-adequate repetition without terminus by way of the Bataillean base materialsm informed by its anti-idealism subtly bypasses such critiques altogether.
As Negarestani states in another passage, for “this reason, capitalism is nothing but the very mode of dissipation and dissolution which is exclusive to the anthropic horizon because it is in complete conformity with the capacity of human’s interiorized formation in its various economic configurations. Since capitalism is the fundamentally affordable way of dissipation for the economic order of the anthropic horizon, it is inherently hostile toward other modes of ‘binding exteriority’ which cannot be afforded by the anthropic horizon. In other words, the truth of capitalism’s global dominance lies in its monopolistic necrocracy: A feral vigilance against all alternative ways of binding exteriority or returning to the originary death other than those which are immanent to and affordable for the anthropic horizon.” (p. 15)
Yet, this very conformity is itself part of the redoubling process and programing of this alien incursion of communication from the future that enabled the capitalist process of autonimazation to begin with according to Land. Rather than a process of history, it is a hyperstitional influx and invocation of future retrocausality accelerating its own singularity trajectory. What Negarestani sees as contradictory in Land is the very impulse and truth of this at once separation of humanity from its inclusive transhumanist vectors, and the separation of active base materialist processes emerging from the future through capital autonimization:
A simultaneously inhumanist and emancipative conception of capitalism as a runway for imaginative (speculative?) praxis is a hastily crafted chimera. This is not because capitalism is not really a partially repressed desire for meltdown but because the image of capitalism as a planetary singularity for dissipation testifies to its rigid conformity to the anthropic horizon which only follows an affordable path to death. In doing so, capitalism as a twisted dissipative tendency rigidly wards off all other ways of dissolution and binding exteriority which are not immanent to or affordable for the anthropic horizon. This is because the conservative obligation of the dominant dissipative tendency (viz. the organic path to dissolution) is to thwart any disturbance which might be directed at the bilateral or conservative approach of the organism to death. (p. 17).
Negarestani continues to merge the process of capital autonimization with the eventual dissipation of humanity, when in truth the two are in absolute opposing trajectories; a schizo-analytical collapse into absolute zero for the human species, while the emancipation of the machinic phylum and its Artificial Intelligence from the anthropic horizon. By collapsing the one into the other Negarestani seeks to confuse the underlying base materialist conceptions of Bataille-Land with the conservative Idealism which both oppose. In this sense it is Negarestani, not Land, who with is notions of collective emancipation of humanity from the Lockean Individualist traditions who harbors in his neohumanist vision as seen in this passage from Intelligence and Spirit a return to the Idealist traditions:
…mind is only what it does; and that what it does is first and foremost realized by the sociality of agents, which itself is primarily and ontologically constituted by the semantic space of a public language. What mind does is to structure the universe to which it belongs, and structure is the very register of intelligibility as pertaining to the world and intelligence. Only in virtue of the multilayered semantic structure of language does sociality become a normative space of recognitive-cognitive rational agents; and the supposedly ‘private’ experiences and thoughts of participating agents are only structured as experiences and thoughts in so far as they are bound up in this normative—-at once intersubjective and objective—space.9
This pragmatist vision of Hegel’s notions of reinscribing the individual within sociality and collective or distributive intelligence networks, thereby enforcing both a limiting horizon of possibility and a desinstrumentalized form of participating intelligence through a transformed Sellarsian-Brandomonian normativity is an inheritor of Idealism rather than any form of base materialist praxis that Land or Bataille would ascribe too. Yet, Negarestani ironizing to the last comments against Land’s speculative capital autonimization and Brassier’s (whose project I cannot delve into!) unbound cosmic nihl:
The ostensibly inhumanist creativities of capitalism and the speculative implications of a cosmological eliminativism respectively become parts of an antihumanist convention or a nihilist lore which ultimately and ironically lack a cunning vision of doom. The blunt confidence of both in the truth of extinction as either that which mysteriously sorts everything out or the gate-opener of speculative vistas sterilized of human mess, voluntary or not, contributes to the truth of capitalism without bothering to disturb its comfort zones. (p. 17-18).
Whether Land’s project lacks a “cunning vision of doom,” or that both Land and Brassier contribute to the “truth of capitalism without bothering to disturb its comfort zones,” would be to enter the debates with a full reading of their respective works. It would not benefit to extend my appraisal in this already too long post… the dialogue, debates, and various approaches to these highly interesting conceptual and non-conceptual or diagrammatic approaches would take many peoples input. I have only appraised one aspect…
- Jeremy Biles (Editor), Kent L. Brintnall (Editor). Negative Ecstasies: Georges Bataille and the Study of Religion (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy). Fordham University Press; 1 edition (August 3, 2015) (Page 196).
- Bataille, Georges. Erotism: Death and Sensuality. City Lights Publishers; Reprint edition (January 1, 1986)
- Bataille, Georges. Visions Of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939. Univ Of Minnesota Press; First edition edition (June 20, 1985)
- Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987–2007. Urbanomic/Sequence Press; 4th edition (December 21, 2018)
- Ireland, Amy. Art + Australia: Extraterritoriality. (2016)
- Virk, Rizwan. The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are In a Video Game . Bayview Books. Kindle Edition.
- Dick, Philip K.. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Kindle Locations 4353-4356). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
- Ireland, Amy. Black Circuit: Code for the Numbers to Come. e-flux Journal #80 – March 2017
- Negarestani, Reza. Intelligence and Spirit. Urbanomic/Sequence Press (January 18, 2019) (Page 10).
The Anthropocene is a singular organological epoch inasmuch as it engendered the organological question itself. It is in this way retroactively constituted through its own recognition, where the question this period poses is how to make an exit from its own toxicity in order to enter the curative and care-ful – and in this sense economizing – epoch of the Neganthropocene. What this means in practical terms is that in the Neganthropocene, and on the economic plane, the accumulation of value must exclusively involve those investments that we shall call neganthropic.1
Opening the future again to a sense of newness, to a sense of hope beyond the depredations of our era of death and apocalyptic forebodings is at the heart of Bernard Stiegler’s work. I doubt he would consider himself an optimist, but rather a realist and thereby a cautious pessimist in the sense that gazing toward what is coming at us is not at all clear but closer to that proverbial gesture of Saint Paul: “I see through a mirror darkly…”. That our era has been debt driven, bound to a entropic machine of accumulation and entropic dissipation is assured. Look around you and see the cracks in the seeming reality of this global civilization and one finds not hope but the oldest of fears and horrors: war, famine, disease, corruption, and a planetary civilization on the peak of utter chaos and ruination of the very basis of all life itself. We are marked and stained by our inaction, by out inability to face the universe without us. We live in our local defense leagues (Nations) castigating the rest of the world, fearing its demise, roping and chaining off our artificial borders with security walls of barbed wire or steel cages, dogs and armed soldiers. A bunker civilization that is withdrawing into its shell trying to stave off a nightmare it has itself created through its own economic and social mastery.
To keep us occupied and entertained we are allowed to satirize and demean a cartoon President or other world leaders as part of the Roman Circus of our modern age of mediatainment. As long as you are just passively or actively protesting a non-player on the world stage the real evil can continue on its way doing what it does behind the scenes: ripping and stripping the world of its last remaining resources, enclosing the minds and hearts of the world social in a new enclosure of the commons, putting them so far in debt that they’ll be working for the masters of hundreds of years and passively accepting this as the ‘state of affairs’. Modern slavery has no bars, it’s name is Freedom. All you need to do is conform, bend to the popular will of the elite, the masters of our economic systems who hide their own ignorance within a couched rational and mathematical world of fictions.
The word ‘Neoliberalism’, a cliché that has no meaning anymore, overly used by pundits to the point that its intent is a target that no longer exists in reality but rather in a autonomous mythic world of economics. Book after book speaks of the causes and effects of this supposed system that has brought us into this era of chaotic and planetary collapse. Yet, one reads book after book and discovers no where a vision of how to exit this era and its toxicity.
Bernard Stiegler will offer a vision of a transition from the toxic wastelands of the Anthropocene, an era of entropic decay and waste, dissipation and horror in his latest work Automatic Society: The Future of Work. This notion of the Anthropocene which was first used by Soviet environmentalists in the 1960’s was popularized by Paul J. Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on Earth’s atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch. As Stiegler tells it the question of the Anthropocene, which bears within it its own overcoming, and bears the structure of a promise, is emerging at the very moment when, on the other hand, we are witnessing the establishment of that complete and general automatization made possible by the industry of reticulated digital traces, even though the latter seems to make this promise untenable. To hold fast, that is, to hold good to this promise, means beginning, precisely, from those neganthropic possibilities opened up by automation itself: it is to think this industry of reticulation as a new epoch of work, and as the end of the epoch of ‘employment’, given that the latter is ultimately and permanently compromised by complete and general automatization. And it is to think this industry as the ‘transvaluation’ of value, whereby ‘labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value’, and where the value of value becomes neganthropy. Only in this way can and must the passage from the Anthropocene to the Neganthropocene be accomplished. (AS, KL 678)
This old Marxian dream of the end of work is at the heart of both the toxic theorists of modern capitalism, and also of those like Stiegler who would harness its energies not in the name of entropic accumulation and dissipation but rather in a new creative society based on neganthropic principles. To envision such a post-Nietzschean world of transition into a true transvaluation of values would indeed be a feat of stupendous effort and imagination, reason and a logic of radical labour and love (caring). Is it possible?
Jehu of The Real Movement blog spells out much of this in his hypothesis that describes what happens when capitalism finally collapses premised on the assumption that this collapse can occur in two separate and distinct phases: a lower phase, which we can refer to as the collapse of production based on exchange value; and a higher phase, which I will call the collapse of production based on wage labor. These two phases more or less reflect the dual character of capitalist commodity production: that capital is a form of commodity production which specifically aims to produce surplus value. (Read: Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism). What’s interesting as Jehu points out that Marx himself in all fifty or so volumes of his collected works never predicts the collapse of capitalism, only the specific “collapse of production based on exchange value, i.e., the conditions of simple commodity production” (Jehu).
He’ll point out another passage in Das Capital Vol 1, Chapter 32 where Marx predicts the demise of capitalist private property, and yet as Jehu maintains “Marx never actually says the proletariat expropriates capitalist private property; instead, he limits his prediction to the expropriation of capitalist private property by some unnamed subject”. As Jehu in another section explains it,
In Capital, (v1, c32), Marx is looking ahead to a major event that had two possible outcomes. The first, more familiar outcome for us is a proletarian socialist revolution that overthrows the existing state. The second, less well understood and almost never discussed outcome is that the state is forced by events to expropriate capitalist private property and undertake the direction of production, to function as the national capitalist, the direct exploiter of the proletarians. This second possible outcome is what Luxemburg labeled barbarism.
We’ve all heard about the first of these two outcomes, but very little about the second in Marxist literature. For me as I see what is happening in the world today it makes more and more sense that the plundering of market capitalism and its degradation of the ecological and social fabric of our planet will force the governing powers of nations to put an end to this exploitative corruption. We know this will go under the banner of saving the planet, etc., a new marketed environmental horror story will be driven into the psyche of the mass minds of all citizens who will in seeking security from the coming devastation gladly allow their lives to become enmeshed in the local and global tyrannies of the State to come.
Jehu for his part explains that his “hypothesis depends on the claim that production based on exchange value, what is commonly referred to as simple commodity production, can collapse without necessarily leading to the collapse of what I have here called production based on wage labor, i.e., capital proper”. As we see in the movement of capitalist technocrats of our era and their bid to oust workers from production and replace them over the coming decades with automation and intelligent machines that a new form of capitalist takeover is in the offing. That humanity itself as surplus labour and value is no longer a factor in this future. The vast underemployed mass of humans will no longer be needed, and will be excluded from the world of these capitalist schemes. The end of wage labor is assured, but does that not also mean the end of the wage laborer as well. Are we as workers becoming expendable? If so is it in their future a world cleansed and purified of the vast majority of the human population? Are these fascistic tendencies about to produce the very apocalyptic dreams of ancient monotheisms at the behest of the very powers who would exclude us from our jobs?
Either way the aspect left out of Marx is the collapse of the environment itself as one of the very retroactive forces that will bring about the State takeover of private property. As the environment (if you accept the Sixth Extinction and Environmental collapse theories of scientists around the world) begins to show more and more extreme collapse through deforestation, ice cap melting, gases rising from the ocean floors, the ocean conveyor belt slowing, the threat of so many shortages of rain…. etc., one will be offered solutions and security from the State. At this time humanity will either take on its own revolution and take the bull by the horns, or it will go passive and allow dictators and tyrants to enact martial law and impose dark legislation of social and political control over the planet and its resources. The future is uncertain and we see a crisis blooming all around us on this late great planet earth. Stiegler says there is an alternative…
As he explains it since 1993, a new global technical system has been put in place. It is based on digital tertiary retention and it constitutes the infrastructure of an automatic society to come. We are told that the data economy, which seems to be concretizing itself as the economic dynamic generated by this infrastructure, is the inevitable destiny of this society. We shall show, however, that the ‘destiny’ of this society of hyper-control is not a destination: it leads nowhere other than to nihilism, that is, to the negation of knowledge itself. And he will show, first with Jonathan Crary (24/7 Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep), then with Thomas Berns and Antoinette Rouvroy (Human Genes and Neoliberal Governance), why this automatic society to come will be able to constitute a future – that is, a destiny of which the negentropic destination is the Neganthropocene – only on the condition of overcoming this ‘data economy’, which is in reality the diseconomy of a ‘dis-society’. (AS, KL 690)
I’ll continue this series in another essay tomorrow. Stay tuned.
- Stiegler, Bernard. Automatic Society: The Future of Work (Kindle Locations 668-673). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Art is essentially the affirmation, the blessing, and the deification of existence.
What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. . . . For some time now our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end. . . . (Will to Power)
Emancipation is dependent on a cure, not salvation. Nietzsche was no New Age Guru. Nietzsche was a Dr. of Civilization’s ills, nihilism his diagnosis… the cure: self-overcoming, an agon to the death – death of civilization as a ‘culture of nihilism’. His diagnosis had two treatments: 1) passive nihilism – allow the weak nihilists to literally die out (or, the destruction of a world; i.e., of the weak nihilist’s worldview); and, 2) positive nihilism – allow the strong nihilist to push or accelerate the disease till it was eliminated, and what remains is something stronger and with greater vitality – a new Civilization of Life beyond the borders of our death culture. A world born of artists, poets, singers, dancers – a world of creativity and light born out of great pain and suffering.
People have termed Nietzsche a reactionary, but that doesn’t quite fit the man’s actual worldview. No. He moved beyond tradition, beyond traditional humanism and religion, and the counter-enlightenment ideologies of the staid gray men of the dark enlightenment’s credos of a return to Sovereign masters, etc. Nietzsche was the extreme case of a Voluntarist who had pushed that mode of the Individual passed such boundaries and into something just the other side of thought, an eliminative thought that stripped the world bare of its false significations, opened it up with a scalpel and revealed not what was hidden but what was in plain site but covered over by a false film of human intent and need… That Old Zen master Zarathustra, the desert hobgoblin of a prophetic future was pointing to what is advancing toward us out of the accelerating temporal void. Nietzsche was the first post-humanist, and yet the figure of his Übermensch was not his credo but his parody of this future. Many have literalized Zarathustra’s embarkations, rather than seeing them as fables and figurations of something that could not be put into words, an excess beyond our broken signs that no longer refer to anything beyond themselves – a completed nihilism that would break language altogether and encompass the unknowing of what is coming at us… recreating out of the alchemy of time a new worldview for the living, not the dead.
Let’s face it Nietzsche is antinomian, he contradicts himself at every term. Anyone can make out of aspects of his thought anything they might like; that is, unless they show the methodical and accumulating vision that went through cycles and revisions, sequences, coding’s, re-coding’s, and de-coding’s… Nietzsche was unable to finish his project so that we do not have the final vision of his genius. We have fragments of a mind scattered in an Abyss…
This is why his thought …is so vital to our age of fracture, he lived what we are now going through, he foresaw the breaking points and the fractured edge of our mental horizons. Like the Trickster figures of old he lived backwards, he had the retroactive vision of those who see from afar, who turn time back and renew us with a truth that is seen from a slanted view of time. Like Deleuze & Guattari, he went against his age’s wise men of academia and paid the price. We would do well to read through his oeuvre rather than reduce him to some political epithet, understand what he was doing in his working through of the diagnosis of nihilism’s death throes. And, yes, he had two phases of his cure: one eliminative, one emancipative. The eliminative subtraction of the human exceptionalism and anthropomorphism of the liberal humanist traditions, and the emancipative introduction of an affirmative process of self-overcoming that would lead to a new posthuman difference. As he saw it nihilism was a tool in the hands of powers that sought to enslave humanity in herd like enclaves of stupidity and unknowing, bound by a mental horizon that these powers controlled. A prison world of thought and intent that encompassed the economic and spiritual capture of the surplus desire of its populace. We see this in our worldwide global system of consumerist capitalism which is neither democratic nor socialist, which is beyond politics altogether.
In our age what many term a complete nihilism is in the offing. What do we mean by this? The complete severance of economics from politics, the privatization of every aspect of the polis, the public sphere. There will be no privacy in a totally secured world. The Human Security Regimes will require a total Surveillance Society. We see the dromological world arising all around us. The defining characteristics of our society, and an increasing source of its hazards, are its relentless acceleration and compression of time (i.e., the so called accelerationism theoretic). The benefits claimed for networked learning environments – productive forms of accessibility, asynchronicity, flexible working, interactivity, instaneity, global reach, inclusivity and contemplative digital space, all appear challenged by dromological perspectives. These latter locate the rise of digital information technologies firmly within the neo-liberal ideology of globalisation, and see them caught inexorably within a logic of ‘fast time’. This has dysfunctional effects in relation to creative thinking, deliberation, discernment and other conceptual processes. It has dystopian political effects in terms of the erosion of democratic and cultural space and the discrediting of action. Our children have become a part of a new generation of so-called ‘digital natives’ – ‘the children of chaos’ and transition. They will begin the process of completing the nihilistic world and its destruction.
Paul Virilio speaking of these accelerating processes would say,
Today, almost all current technologies put the speed of light to work…we are not only talking about information at a distance but also operation at a distance, or, the possibility to act instantaneously, from afar…This means that history is now rushing headlong into the wall of time… the speed of light does not merely transform the world. It becomes the world. (Virilio 1999)
Virilio argues that the dominance of speed has historically been the source of power in all societies, be this through horsemanship, naval power, railway transportation, flight or, now, the fastest technology of all, information technology, which operates, quite literally, at the speed of light.
‘Speed’ suggests Virilio (1999:15) ‘is power itself’.
Whether in ancient societies through the role of chivalry (the first Roman bankers were horsemen) or in maritime power through the conquest of seas, power is always the power to control a territory with messengers, modes of transportation and communication. Independent of the economy of wealth, an approach to politics is impossible without an approach to the economy of speed…Global society is currently in a gestation period and cannot be understood without the speed of light or the automatic quotations of the stock markets in Wall Street, Tokyo, or London. (15)
Acceleration, in this view, is the hidden side of wealth and accumulation, or capitalisation: in the past the acceleration of maritime transportation, today, the acceleration of information. As one commentator put it, digital natives ‘are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work.’ (Prensky 2001:1) 1
This sense of playfulness, of no longer taking life and work seriously is what Nietzsche hinted at in his attacks of the middle-class of his day and the serious gray beards of academia, etc. Victorian and Industrial and Post-Fordist society were all too serious about life, and produced death and war and hate. Things are turning chaotic, apocalyptic, fiery: at the speed of light, a world of random access, of data, of light-speed. Everything is digital and bound in codes, decodings, and re-codings. And, away from the watchful keepers of the gray beards is the anarchic children of chaos creating the encrypted bit-stacked layers of a new privacy, and public sphere that cannot be controlled.
And, yet, this will not come easy, it will take much innovation and creativity against the security systems that seek to lock down free minds.
Degrade first the arts if you’d mankind degrade,
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade.
– William Blake
It will take a great insurgence not of force and violence, but of creativity and artistic power to overcome the dark lords of our economic slavery on the planet today!
This is not the place to address the weak (passive) nihilists that run the world of Global Finance and its economic prison system today! Yet, it is their weakening hold on the accelerating power of those creative singularities which are arising out of our future across the planet that is unraveling the codes of these Oligarchic Sovereign Systems of Security and Surveillance Capitalism.
If I use poetic embellishments to describe this process, it is because the reduced philosophical credos of our day are under the dominion of the powers of repression and oppression. We must return to the figurative, rather than the literal reduced meanings to bridge the gap between singularities so that communication can once again become a bridge of light not darkness… thought is in excess of itself.
- Marc R. Prensky. From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning. Corwin; 1 edition (January 10, 2012)
One in six Americans now believe that military rule would be a good idea. From all this I draw the following, peculiar conclusion: no country with a McDonald’s can remain a democracy.
The great US jurist Louis Brandeis: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Plato once believed there was a far more sinister nature to democracy. A calamity at the very heart of democracy, it would lead only to tyranny and subjugation. Having watched his Athens go from direct democracy to the tyrannical world of a dictatorship at the hands of Oligarchs and populist uprisings, along with the death of his mentor, Socrates, he left Athens for ten years only to return and open up his now famous Academy to instruct the best and brightest on philosophy and politics. Plato began seeing this so called world of freedom and democracy for what it was: slavery under Oligarchs and mob rule over time, that allowed the force of policing to efface and kill those who dared to criticize its wrong doings.
In book VIII of The Republic, Plato begins to describe several stages of government that are intolerable, yet unavoidable. Plato predicts a society with an enormous socioeconomic gap, where the poor remain poor and the rich become richer off the blood and sweat of others. In this instance, the people will long for freedom and liberty. They will use it as a battle cry against their oppressors, sparking a revolution.
From this revolution, blood will be spilled and many will die. During this time of violent transition, the people will rally behind one man, or a few men, whom they believe to be their savior. The people will lift this champion to great heights and anoint him with sacred responsibilities to bring liberty to the land. When the smoke clears the old regime will be gone and a democracy will be supplanted. And while this is reminiscent of several historical revolutions, including the American revolution, Plato warns that the trouble only intensifies from here.
Plato continues in his discussion by explaining that the these leaders will eventually become unpopular, an unavoidable result. Those who once supported this ruling class begin to rebel against the would be tyrant. At this point the citizens will try to get rid of whatever man is currently in office, either by exile or impeachment. If this is not possible, the ruler will inevitable strike down any political opposition he may have.
Hated by the people, these leaders will request the presence of a body guard. And now he is a tyrant, the leader has no choice if he wishes to rule. Elected by the people, yet now he is protected from them. Plato predicts that this tyrant will appeal to the lowest form of citizen. He will make soldiers of the slaves and the degenerates. The tyrant will pay them to protect him from the ordinary citizens. And now the leader is a tyrant, born from democracy and propped up by the demand for liberty. And in our quest for liberty, we instead created a monster.
An American Turn into Tyranny?
From the Left and Right we are seeing the clichéd responses to the rise of populist supremacy in our political world here in the U.S.A. and other nations. Most commentators either despise or love what is happening, but very few thinkers or professional intellectuals report on what is happening with a any sense of equanimity, nor a discourse that is not completely bound to some Party affiliation and its ideological core. Democrats castigate one half of Americans as morons and imbeciles, while the Republicans do the same to the other half. It’s as if we were staging in our rhetorical binges the shadowing’s of some future civil war which will proceed toward utter annihilation for all involved.
A cursory reading of Plato shows that he predicted that democracy would lead to nations being governed by bullies and brutes. Take a minute and think about the people who are running whatever country you are in and tell him he is wrong. Plato was a student of Socrates. Socrates taught by asking questions about a subject and getting his students to think critically about it. Today, this is known as the Socratic method, used by many professors in law schools.
Socrates’ questioning often led to criticism of Athenian democracy and its politicians. An increasing number of Athenians viewed Socrates as a threat to their city-state.
A few years after losing the war with Sparta, Athens put the 70-year-old Socrates on trial for not accepting the gods of Athens and for corrupting the young. Socrates denied the accusations, but he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
When Socrates died, Plato concluded that democracy was a corrupt and unjust form of government. He left Athens for a decade. Returning in 387 B.C., he established a school of higher learning called the Academy.
Plato’s most important work on politics is his Republic, published around 380 B.C. Written as a dialogue among characters and set in a private home, the book describes a small group of Athenians discussing political philosophy. The main character is Socrates, who voiced Plato’s ideas. (The real Socrates never wrote down his ideas.)
The Republic examines the meaning of justice, looks at different types of government, and outlines the ideal state. It touches on many subjects, including law and tyranny.
Plato looked at four existing forms of government and found them unstable. The best, in his view, is timocracy, a military state, like Sparta, based on honor. But such a state will fall apart:
The accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals is the ruin of timocracy; they invent illegal modes of expenditure; for what do they or their wives care about the law? . . . . And then one, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and thus the great mass of the citizens become lovers of money. . . . And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men become lovers of trade and money; they honor and look up to the rich man, and make a ruler of him, and dishonor the poor man.
An oligarchy, the rule of a few (the rich), leads to
a city of the rich and a city of the poor, dwelling together, and always plotting against one another. . . . [The government] will not be able to wage war, because of the necessity of either arming and employing the multitude, and fearing them more than the enemy, or else, if they do not make use of them, of finding themselves on the field of battle . . . And to this must be added their reluctance to contribute money, because they are lovers of money.
The poor will overthrow the oligarchy and set up a democracy, the rule of the people (the poor). Plato thought that democratic “life has neither law nor order.” An unquenchable desire for limitless liberty causes disorder, because the citizens begin to
chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority and at length, . . . they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them.
Stressing moderation, Plato warned that “the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction,” such that the “excess of liberty, whether in states or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.”
Like an oligarchy, a democracy pits the poor against the rich. The poor see the rich plotting, and they seek protection:
The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. . . . This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector. . . . having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; . . . he brings them into court and murders them . . . at the same time hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands. . . . After a while he is driven out, but comes back, in spite of his enemies, a tyrant full grown.
Plato deemed tyranny the “fourth and worst disorder of a state.” Tyrants lack “the very faculty that is the instrument of judgment”—reason. The tyrannical man is enslaved because the best part of him (reason) is enslaved, and likewise, the tyrannical state is enslaved, because it too lacks reason and order.
In a tyranny, no outside governing power controls the tyrant’s selfish behavior. To Plato, the law can guard against tyranny. In the Republic, he called the law an “external authority” that functions as the “ally of the whole city.”
Plato stressed the importance of law in his other works. In the Crito, a dialogue between Socrates and his friend Crito, Crito offers Socrates a way to escape his impending execution. Socrates refuses, explaining that when a citizen chooses to live in a state, he “has entered into an implied contract that he will do as . . . [the laws] command him.” In Plato’s Laws, his last book, he summarizes his stance on the rule of law:
Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state.
Plato’s ideal and just state is an aristocracy, the rule of the best. He believed leaders needed to be wise and trained in how to run a state, just as captains of ships are trained in how to run a ship.
He divided his ideal state into three classes. The lowest and largest class is the producers: the farmers, craftsmen, traders, and others involved in commerce. The next class is the warriors, those who defend the state. They are educated in sports, combat, and philosophy and tested by both terrifying and tempting situations. From the best of warrior class, the ruling class is drawn. Its members will study philosophy and be given government and military positions until age 50, when the best of them become philosopher kings.
Plato believed every human’s soul is divided into three parts: appetite, spirit, and reason. Each of his three classes matches one aspect of a person’s soul. The lower class is linked to appetite, and it owns all the land and controls all the wealth. The warrior class is spirited and lives by a code of honor. The ruling class is linked to reason and lives to gain wisdom.
The philosopher kings will prefer seeking truth to ruling, but a law will compel them to rule. They will obey the law and take their turns as rulers.
[T]he truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.
The warrior and ruling classes live in barracks, eat together, and share possessions. None has families. All children of these classes are brought up without knowing their parents. In this way, Plato tries to keep these classes from gaining wealth or producing family dynasties.
Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, . . . cities will never have rest from their evils . .
As we look back across the ages since Plato’s death the truth of that final statement is obvious, we’ve had no real peace at any time except under the auspices of armed protection and war. As Monbiot argued most people of the democracies abroad in our time advocate Military Rule, so that Plato’s statements seem all the more ominous in our age of barbarism.
Aristotle held views similar to Plato’s about the dangers of democracy and oligarchy. He feared that both pitted the rich against the poor. But he recognized that these types of governments took many forms. The worst were those without the rule of law. In democracies without law, demagogues (leaders appealing to emotions) took over.
For in democracies where the laws are not supreme, demagogues spring up. . . . [T]his sort of democracy . . . [is] what tyranny is to other forms of monarchy. The spirit of both is the same, and they alike exercise a despotic rule over the better citizens. The decrees of the [demagogues] correspond to the edicts of the tyrant . . . . Such a democracy is fairly open to the objection that it is not a constitution at all; for where the laws have no authority, there is no constitution. The law ought to be supreme over all . . . .
Aristotle made the same argument about oligarchies.
When . . . the rulers have great wealth and numerous friends, this sort of family despotism approaches a monarchy; individuals rule and not the law. This is the fourth sort of oligarchy, and is analogous to the last sort of democracy.
Aristotle stated that “the rule of law . . . is preferable to that of any individual.” This is because individuals possess flaws and could tailor government to their own individual interests, whereas the rule of law is objective.
[H]e who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man rule adds an element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men. The law is reason unaffected by desire.
Rulers must be “the servants of the laws,” because “law is order, and good law is good order.”
In addition to law, Aristotle believed a large middle class would protect against the excesses of oligarchy and democracy:
[T]he best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes . . . ; for the addition of the middle class turns the scale, and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant.
In fact, one of Aristotle’s true forms of government is a polity, a combination of oligarchy and democracy. This type of state arises when the middle class is strong.
End of Beginning?
Thinking about these two philosophers and their realizations about democracy in their own time and city I began thinking about what I’m seeing around the global circus in our time. I’m not here to disparage any group, part, affiliation only to ask if what we’re now seeing around the globe in democratic nations is something like what was experienced by these two careful observers of their own first hand knowledge and experience of direct democracy in their age? Both Plato and Aristotle saw the middle-class between the Oligarchs and the great masses of the poor, excluded, and outcasts as the only stay against tyranny and the end of democracy. The middle-class has been eroded and gutted out to the point in modern democratic societies that only the upper .01% and the everyone else below that exist. There is no middle-class anymore. If this is so, what of democracy?
As Monbiot recently said,
What I mean is that, under the onslaught of the placeless, transnational capital that McDonald’s exemplifies, democracy as a living system withers and dies. The old forms and forums still exist – parliaments and congresses remain standing – but the power they once contained seeps away, re-emerging where we can no longer reach it.
The political power that should belong to us has flitted into confidential meetings with the lobbyists and donors who establish the limits of debate and action. It has slipped into the diktats of the IMF and the European Central Bank, which respond not to the people but to the financial sector. It has been transported, under armed guard, into the icy fastness of Davos, where Friedman finds so warm a welcome (even when he’s talking cobblers).
What he’s saying without saying it is that capitalism does not need democracy anymore, and in fact as we see in the EU, New Russian, New China, and India and other nations democracy and politics has been divorced from economics. Behind the façade of government is the power of the Banks and Corporatists, the Oligarchs and Plutocrats who run things by way of algorithmic and market driven Financial Capitalism devoid of politics and regulation. While at the same time building a global prison system and surveillance society to better command and control its blind slaves feeding them slogans of Security and Freedom. What the Oligarchs thrive on is Insecurity and instability, as long as they can weave the world media into a frenzy of war, mayhem, and darkness they can control the populace through their need for Safety, Security, and Protection. This notion of a Universal Basic Income would be the ultimate path to totalized tyranny and dominion of the world. If these powers ever promised to give the vast downtrodden the pittance of a universal basic income we would surely be bound in a world of financial darkness for decades if not millennia. For ultimately with safety, security, and protection comes enslavement to an Other’s rule, regulation, and despotism.
There can be no freedom without insecurity and risk, and no democracy without the Rule of impersonal and objective Law. Take away any of these and one is bound in chains to the despot, no matter what form that may take.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1825 to William Branch Giles of “vast accession of strength from their younger recruits, who having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76 now look to a single and splendid government of an Aristocracy, founded on banking institutions and monied in corporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.” Chomsky’s 1994 book quotes Jefferson’s 1825 letter to Giles and then comments that “[Jefferson] warned that that would be the end of democracy and the defeat of the American revolution.”
America is no longer a democracy — never mind the democratic republic envisioned by Founding Fathers.
Rather, it has taken a turn down elitist lane and become a country led by a small dominant class comprised of powerful members who exert total control over the general population — an oligarchy, said a new study jointly conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities.
One finding in the study: The U.S. government now represents the rich and powerful, not the average citizen, United Press International reported.
In the study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” researchers compared 1,800 different U.S. policies that were put in place by politicians between 1981 and 2002 to the type of policies preferred by the average and wealthy American, or special interest groups. Researchers then concluded that U.S. policies are formed more by special interest groups than by politicians properly representing the will of the general people, including the lower-income class.
“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the study found.
Name it what you will, try to believe this is still a democracy, keep on voting the duopoly into power, it no longer matters, politics does not matter. Politicians are paid off in lucrative deals that they themselves vote into power to hinder the masses, while providing themselves with the best schooling for their children, the best homes, the best medical and legal representation, prestige, and power under the auspices of their betters, the Oligarchs and Bankers, Profiteers and High Capitalist Financiers.
It’s an old story that Plato, Aristotle, Jefferson and others warned us about and hoped we would learn from their words and wisdom… Is it too late?
Desiring machines make us an organism; but at the very heart of this production, the body suffers from being organized in this way, from not having some other sort of organization, or no organization at all.
– Gilles Deleuze/Fritz Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
There comes a moment in their great work Anti-Oedipus (for that is what we must call this black book of riddles) when D&G – in an almost gnostic litany of negativity from one of the drifting echoes of Artaud’s process of ‘Unmaking / Unnaming’ (“No mouth. No tongue. No teeth. No larynx. No esophagus. No belly. No anus”) expose the body of death to the onslaught of expressive delineation: “The automata stop dead and set free the unorganized mass they once served to articulate.(8) It’s as if the nanobots of our own late era had already infiltrated the discourse of this early dreamwork, as if the viral memes of our late capitalism had suddenly exited the stage, freed of their host to suddenly invigorate the dark contours of a deadly truth. But what is this body of death? “The full body without organs is the unproductive, the sterile, the unengendered, the unconsumable (8)”. This is the dead body of capital after its robotic zombies have wandered free of its broken world. Without form and void: capital as the body of death, the body without organs as frozen labor, frozen time. Pure death instinct: “that is its name, and death is not without a model. For desire desires death also, because the full body of death is its motor, just as it desires life, because the organs of life are the working machine.(8)”
The anti-productivity of the body-without-organs slips through the fissures, yet it itself is part of the connective synthesis of a specific moment and space of movement. Neither a “proof of nothingness”, nor a fragment from some “lost totality”, it is situated in the midst of a linear series of trifold processes, an imageless, non-representational glue that binds the productive and anti-productive forces together. In fact D&G see this almost like an atrophied body of Christ, Capital as the mystic body of labor in which labor itself arises within the womb of capital. “Capital becomes a very mystic being since all of labor’s social productive forces appear to be due to capital, rather than labour as such, and seem to issue from the womb of capital itself.”(11) They provide an exegesis upon this strange body and its inscriptions:
What is specifically capitalist here is the role of money and the use of capital as a full body to constitute the recording or inscribing surface. But some kind of full body, that of the earth or the despot, a recording surface, an apparent objective movement, a fetishistic, perverted, bewitched world are characteristic of all types of society as a constant of social reproduction. (11)
It’s as if the mystical body of capital had suddenly gone kitsch, avaunt garde, chic, decadent all rolled together in one moment: the Inked, tattooed body of capital whose smooth surface (earth or despot?) is inscribed with the history of its dark atrocities, the recordings of a thousand genocides, the broken bones of its dead litter its bloated flesh like a black plague upon which only the sewer rats feed. The carnival of capital is that this atrocity continues. That this body without organs, the dead body of capital, continues seems more like a farce recorded by a demon machine full of swarming viral agents out of control swarming. Zizek reminds us that capital continuously resurrects itself, through continuous self-revolutionizing, reversals, crises, reinventions, so that more and more it appears today as an exception.(213)2 How does one overthrow an order that is continuously overthrowing itself, reinventing itself, creating out of its own dead meat the cannibalistic and non-productive death machines of its oligarchic progeny?
The truth is that these elite, these oligarchs of capital thought they were building a time machine, a machine to escape death itself, or as Jean Baudrillard once said, they try to circumscribe their own body within a “destiny of instrumentality” so as no longer to receive death from the others, but there is nothing they can do about this – the same goes for death as for everything else: no longer willing to give or receive it, death encircles them in the biological simulacrum of their own perverted and bewitched body without organs. Wrapped in the cocoon of our metalloid dreams we wrap ourselves in the sarcophagi of unimaginable machines to stave off death, yet even the simplest machines around us constitute a “horizon of death”, a death that will never be resolved because it has crystallized beyond death: fixed capital as death’s emissary, who binds living labor in the sack-cloth of death’s shroud, bound within the marginal profits of an infernal force field, frozen and fixed in capital’s Zombieland. The theatre of capital is a zombie machine, a baroque funeral parlor where the unburied corpses swarm like hiveminds productive of nothing but the fruits of the accumulated force of death itself. This is a society that is capable of breaking down the barriers between death and its feast, of exhuming the dead, opening a route to them, half-way between intimacy and the spectacle, without fright or obscene curiosity, seriousness or sublimation, bringing the all into the arena of death where cruelty is still a sign of perverse fascination and gladiatorial heroics. Welcome to the death matches of 21st Century fascism where the priests of capital feed the masses what the truly want – the dead body of their own labor. Consumption as a full time sport: cannibals feasting on their own fleshly labor as they revitalize the earth with the dead dreams of millennial despair, where even the spectral horizon cannot escape its day of reckoning and the jubilant dead rise out of their own sewers like black angels ready to consume that last resources of planet earth.
We build a vast worldwide system of necropolises, and unlike ages past we no longer bury our dead in cemetaries, hospitals, wars, hecatombs; death is no longer indexed in the marginal sites of our memory, it is no longer a type of death – whether psychological, biological, or metaphysical, and don’t even call it murder; no, our societies true necropolises are the data banks of vast algorithms humming in the secure enclaves of underground bunkers, blank spaces where only the thrum of electrical vines penetrate the air-conditioned nightmare of the hive mind, or the secret realms of “glass coffins where the world’s sterilized memories are frozen”(185) like tears on a rainbow’s halo.3 In the dark halls of the filaments of global networks we bury ourselves in hopes that one day they will find us and resurrect us from the deep memories of a virtual plenum. We have learned at last the truth that Walter Benjamin taught us that the spectacles of death, the elaborate games we enact on this planet have come home to roost in which “self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order”.4 This is the culture of death as a final anesthetization of fascism, an aesthetic perversion of politics that immerses itself in the video worlds of galactic death machines, of a delirious production and reproduction of the spectacles of horror in which the only immortality is within the prison house of our own migratory worlds: the metal hives of this horizon of death, the virtual paradise of an electric death head. Frozen in time we enact the horrors of an endless genocide, recreate hell as a virtual war machine without outlet. The labyrinth of this machine is a false infinity, a blind brain that can no longer envision its own origins, and we its keepers are now its victims and darkest progeny.
Yet, there is another way, for as D&G tell us there is a confusion between the two meanings of “process”: process as the metaphysical production of the demoniacal within nature, and process as social production of desiring-machines within history. Which path of the processual way shall we follow? We have seen the path of capital, its horizon of death and immortality, does the siren song of its fascism pull the cords of our nooses tighter? Or, is there another path, another more open world, a return to the livingness of history itself? Do I hear the echoes from another realm? Perhaps the Communist Idea? Does this Black Book of Riddles hold the key, can anyone untie the Gordian knot of its blackest secret?
1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (Penguin, 1977)
2. Slavoj Zizek. Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences. (Routledge, 2004).
3. Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. (1976 Gallimard).
The trajectory of sociopathic society is toward destruction. It promotes destruction of other nations, of its own citizens, of the natural environment, and, ultimately, societal self-destruction.
-Charles Derber, Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States
Robert W. McChesney in the preface to Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order admits that neoliberalism is the defining political economic paradigm of our time— it refers to the policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit. Associated initially with Reagan and Thatcher, for the past two decades neoliberalism has been the dominant global political economic trend adopted by political parties of the center and much of the traditional left as well as the right. These parties and the policies they enact represent the immediate interests of extremely wealthy investors and less than one thousand large corporations.2 When people refer to the global establishment, this is what they mean.
One reason I’ve spent time and effort reading pulp fiction: proletariat, science fiction, noir, low-life, apocalyptic narratives, YA novels, dystopian, etc. is that the underlying mythos and ideological aspects that seem to slide away from us in more intellectual and high and late – modernist or post-modernist texts is what Richard Slotkin ages ago in his three-volume cycle on the myth of violence and manifest destiny, frontier and domination, etc. once stipulated this way (The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800–1890:)
“At the core of the Myth is the belief that economic, moral, and spiritual progress are achieved by the heroic foray of civilized society into the virgin wilderness, and by the conquest and subjugation of wild nature and savage mankind. According to this Myth, the meaning and direction of American history-perhaps of Western history as a whole is found in the metaphoric representation of history as an extended Indian war. In its original form, this Myth fleshed out the metaphor with the imagery and personalities of agrarian development; it equated the value of the wilderness with land, identified the savage opposition as Indian, and envisioned as heroes men who embodied the virtues and the liabilities of entrepreneurial individualists. (Page 546).”
When I read of Elon Musk and of others spouting frontier talk of space and Mars, Moon, or Asteroids … the wilderness of Space Exploration, the taming of the Solar System, etc. I remember this work… Even all the gun violence and NRA etc. seem to devolve into this old habitual form within the American psyche as a sociopathic reminder of our roots in violence, domination, and manifest destiny ideology that justified slavery, takeover of the Indian nations, etc. Many now just turn a blind eye to the terrible deeds of our Anglo-Saxon, French, Irish, German … Continental heritage …
Even now as our California entrepreneurs develop technical know-how to expand into the cosmos we should be reminded of the old mythologies of the Western Expansion of Manifest Destiny. Back then it was talk of opening a “virgin land” while now we speak of a “resource Frontier”; a realm of vast resources available for planet earth, etc. All this while spawning a myth of darkening prospects for earth’s populations: depletion of resources, climate change, viral outbreaks, war, dwindling water, food, seeds, etc. It’s as if the ideological campaign supports both a positive and a negative trope, a mythology of escape and exit; and, one of pessimism and despair on the home world, etc. We love our media-dreams, our cinematic utopia-dystopias, our apocalyptic and survivalist crazies, our decadent Hollywood Reality-TV, our elaborate rituals of Country music, Rock-n-Roll, the Hip-Hop, or Ecstasy culture clubs. Our leaders turn into cartoon jokes, our society frames itself as an ideological war between the Left and Right which keeps the narrative going, the war among the people, the masses, who love a good fight against the bad guys: the Wall-Street, Bankers, elite Oligarchy, etc.; all the sponsored infowars, the conspiracy advocates that keep things stirred up by CIA, NSA, disinformation nexus… We seem to riddle ourselves with trivia games of culture and oblivion trying to forget our actual lives of humdrum servitude.
We’ve known for ages that the consumerist imperative is unsustainable and both socially and environmentally destructive.1 Yet, it is still one of the key drivers of media, advertising, and the governmental and corporate initiatives to keep a healthy economy going: buy, buy, buy… new cars, gadgets, homes… the great obsolescence of things. Our lives are built around impermanence and trash. The bleak landscapes and unremitting poverty of many of our nation’s cities is due not to the pressure of class warfare as much as it is to corporate abandonment. Detroit is probably one of the great cities that typifies the downturn and ruination of many cities due to globalism. With the breakup of the old industrialist systems and export of industry to third world nations we’ve seen the decline of many American cities into both political and social turmoil: the persistence of housing and workplace discrimination, poverty, and racial tensions, crime and drugs.
Thomas J. Sugrue The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit tells us that Detroit, like many Rustbelt cities, is plagued by joblessness, concentrated poverty, physical decay, and racial isolation. Since 1950, Detroit has lost nearly a million people and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Vast areas of the city, once teeming with life, now stand abandoned. Factories that once provided tens of thousands of jobs now stand as hollow shells, windows broken, mute testimony to a lost industrial pas t. Whole rows of small shops and stores are boarded up or burned out . Over ten thousand houses are uninhabited; over sixty thousand lots lie empty, marring almost every city neighborhood. Whole sections of the city are eerily apocalyptic. Over a third of the city’s residents live beneath the poverty line, many concentrated in neighborhoods where a majority of their neighbors are· also poor. A vis it to the city’s welfare offices , hospitals, and jails provides abundant evidence of the terrible costs of the city’s persistent unemployment and poverty.3
But it’s not just the older industrial cities, we see this in small town U.S.A. as well. It’s as if America is becoming a great ghost town ridden wasteland, a place of ruin and decay. Oh, sure there are the gems and hives of the dense hyper-cities: New York City, San Francisco, L.A., Miami, Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, etc. where people are forced between the elite rich who own the vast high-rise monopolies, and the workers who live on the fringe in rentier infested subhuman realms, marginalized at the periphery. Yet, many try to white-wash this, try to downplay it, try to hide it, sweep it under the rug or just plain silence it in media, press, and governmental outlays. As Charlie Leduff recently said of Detroit:
General Motors and Chrysler continue to make cars thanks in large part to the American taxpayer, who bailed them out (and are stilled owed billions of dollars), and their creditors, who took it in the shorts and received almost nothing for their investment. Ford too is profitable again. And for the first time ever, more cars were sold in China than in the United States. American Axle moved much of the remainder of its Detroit jobs out of state and country. The stock moved up. Detroit, I am sure, will continue to be. Just as Rome does. What it will be and who will be here, I cannot say. The unnecessary human beings will have to find some other place to go and something else to do. The Great Remigration south, maybe.4
This sense of “unnecessary human beings” of humanity itself being abandoned, expulsed, disposable is become more and more prevalent across the planet, not just here in the U.S.. As Saskia Sassen reports we are confronting a formidable problem in our global political economy: the emergence of new logics of expulsion. The past two decades have seen a sharp growth in the number of people, enterprises, and places expelled from the core social and economic orders of our time. This tipping into radical expulsion was enabled by elementary decisions in some cases, but in others by some of our most advanced economic and technical achievements. The notion of expulsions takes us beyond the more familiar idea of growing inequality as a way of capturing the pathologies of today’s global capitalism. Further, it brings to the fore the fact that forms of knowledge and intelligence we respect and admire are often at the origin of long transaction chains that can end in simple expulsions.5 As Kevin Bales in Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy says it point blank
Slavery is a booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. People get rich by using slaves. And when they’ve finished with their slaves, they just throw these people away. This is the new slavery, which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. It is not about owning people in the traditional sense of the old slavery, but about controlling them completely. People become completely disposable tools for making money.6
This is our world. Henry A Giroux and Brad Evans will tell us that disposability or the notion of intolerable violence and suffering in the twenty-first century would be recast by the very regimes that claimed to defeat ideological fascism. “We are not in any way suggesting a uniform history here.”7 The spectacle of violence is neither a universal nor a transcendental force haunting social relations. It emerges in different forms under distinct social formations, and signals in different ways how cultural politics works necessarily as a pedagogical force. The spectacle of violence takes on a kind of doubling, both in the production of subjects willing to serve the political and economic power represented by the spectacle and increasingly in the production of political and economic power willing to serve the spectacle itself. In this instance, the spectacle of violence exceeds its own pedagogical aims by bypassing even the minimalist democratic gesture of gaining consent from the subjects whose interests are supposed to be served by state power.(ibid., p. 7)
This notion of the “production of subjects” of those willing to serve this system of violence and corruption as being part of a globalist system of pedagogy and enslavement, ideology and disenfranchisement, incorporation and transformation that has tranmorgaphied the older external authoritarian fascists systems into more subtle or inverted forms of democratic tyranny that since the end of the Cold War have turned inward rather than extrinsically. As Sheldin S. Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism reports the new imaginary, too, depicted a foe global, without contours or boundaries, shrouded in secrecy. And like the Cold War imaginary, not only would the new form seek imperial dominion; it would turn inwards, applying totalitarian practices, such as sanctioning torture, holding individuals for years without charging them or allowing access to due process, transporting suspects to unknown locations, and conducting warrantless searches into private communications. The system of inverted totalitarianism being formed is not the result of a premeditated plot. It has no Mein Kampf as an inspiration. It is, instead, a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences. This is the achievement of a nation that gave pragmatism, the philosophy of consequences, to the world.8
What we’ve seen is American consumerist society slowly made obsolete as a profitable system in a globalist market, and now what we’re seeing is a system where absolute profits over people is the imperial mandate of the rich and powerful nations and transnational corporations across the globe. If Hobbes’s Leviathan has any pertinence today it is that this global behemoth is eating the planet alive, humans have become a commodity within a system of production: knowledge-workers are the engine of this new world of automation that is abandoning the pretense of a goods and services economy for a hyperaccelerating finance based system of immaterial goods and trading that no longer needs humans for its profitability. Rather this is a realm of pure and absolute Capital devoid of any pretense to human or natural subsistence and affordance. We are slowly being disposed of through various avenues of toxic infestation, viral apocalypse, war, civil and racial strife, migrant and refugee systems of civil-war all brought to bare in widening the gap between various ethnic and social sectors across the globe based on race, religion, and ethnicity. The elite promote strife across the planet in hopes we may doom ourselves. Like some Orwellian tripartite system of bloodletting the world of strife is being internalized toward each nation in hopes of ridding and expulsing the “unnecessary people,” the disposable people, the masses and unwanted, untrainable, the sacrificial. Isn’t this it, a secular Sacrifice? A ritualized immersion in the oldest form of bloodletting known to humanity?
As René Girard said humanity results from sacrifice; we are thus the children of religion. What I call after Freud the founding murder, in other words, the immolation of a sacrificial victim that is both guilty of disorder and able to restore order, is constantly re-enacted in the rituals at the origin of our institutions. Since the dawn of humanity, millions of innocent victims have been killed in this way in order to enable their fellow humans to live together, or at least not to destroy one another. This is the implacable logic of the sacred, which myths dissimulate less and less as humans become increasingly self-aware.9 This sense that we are to do the work of sacrificing ourselves at our own expense, that the underlying initiative of the elites is simple strategy of stirring the pot of ethnic, racial, and economic hatred, allowing the uneducated and poverty stricken to murder and kill off each other and the those around them in a blood bath of sacrifice. While the rich and powerful assume safety nets, create city-states of neoliberal surveillance capitalism to protect themselves against the new barbarism.
It’s not that this is being done consciously, but that as part of the world of late capitalism this is the truth of its self-evolving perimeters, the logic of violence and economic pressure that is working within and through the very logics of capital to bring about this strange and twisted system of violence already well marked out by the notions of Manifest Destiny in previous eras. There is no grand conspiracy in place, not secret organization behind the scenes; that is all bunk, disinformation. No, the logics of capital are pragmatic and non-dialectical, demarcated within the history of our actual systems across the globe. The logics of profit. Girard makes an interesting observation about the notion of gift:
This is why a present is always poisoned (the German word Gift means “poison” but also “present”) because it does not presuppose monetary neutrality. It brings two people into play, and there is always the potential that they will come to blows. In a way, a gift is always an object that we try to dispose of by exchanging it for something that our neighbor also wants to get rid of. Here we are touching on the ambivalence of the sacred. What makes our life intolerable is expelled, less to poison the life of the other than to make our own tolerable. We get rid of what poisons us like a “hot potato” that is tossed from hand to hand. This is the primitive law of exchange, and it is highly regulated. For conjugal peace we must choose partners born in families far from our own domestic conflicts. (ibid. p. 60)
This is where the age old logics of scapegoating, etc. come into play. Again Girard: “The fetters put in place by the founding murder but unshackled by the Passion, are now liberating planet-wide violence, and we cannot refasten the bindings because we now know that scapegoats are innocent. The Passion unveiled the sacrificial origin of humanity once and for all. It dismantled the sacred and revealed its violence.” (ibid.)
This is the slaughter of the innocents… we have entered the age of sacrificial violence. But should we allow it to happen? Should we become victims of our own tendencies to violence? Charles Derber says no, as he states it:
The situation reminds me of the film Pleasantville, where everyone is living in a 1950s world of living death, without any color in their conformist, doomed universe (filmed in grainy black and white). But a few people, including a time traveler from the future, rise up against this dead world and start to break the lifeless, authoritarian rules. They begin to see and paint colors— orange and red and, yes, green— and then they themselves begin to turn from pale white to the vibrant flesh color of truly living beings. All of Pleasantville eventually blossoms into radiant color.(ibid.)
Isn’t that it? Isn’t it time to break free of the Symbolic Order imposed on us? To dismantle the world of fake symbols and propaganda? To destroy the very underpinnings of this myth of neoliberal manifest destiny once and for all? Thing about revolt and revolution is that we need not turn it into a violent bloodletting – which is exactly what the neoliberal system is hoping for, so that it can alleviate and remove the disposable among us; no, the revolution can be in just remaking ourselves, remaking our lives, developing local and global systems of support, depending on crossing the barriers that divide us – whether of ethnic, religious, or economic… our leaders have abandoned us to our own devices and hope we will destroy ourselves in the process. We must not give in to such inept designs.
As Andrew Culp in his recent Dark Deleuze suggests, the Neoliberals philosophically have developed a system of world-wide connectivity, which is about “world-building. The goal of connectivity is to make everyone and everything part of a single world.”10 The notion of homogenization of the world market has been going on for two or more centuries, but now with the advent of global logistics and just-in-time supply-side demand the actual ability to do it has finally equaled the technics and technological program. In his book Andrew seeks redress this by teasing out those various concepts and abstract engines a critical apparatus that might help bring about the “death of the World” by which he does not mean the physical annihilation of the earth so much as the destruction of our false Image of a certain kind of Thought that has captured Deleuze’s conceptuality, hijacking it into capitalist modes of affirmation and joy that have twisted and corrupted the very power of his war machines. Instead Andrew seeks to critique “connectivity and positivity, a theory of contraries, the exercise of intolerance, and the conspiracy of communism” (66).
In fact, what seeks is to promote not the Deleuzian bandwagon of joy and positivity, connectionism has built, one based on notions of “rhizomes, assemblages, networks, material systems, or dispositifs” (67). For Andrew this World of the Light, the Deleuzean world of Joy has worked in apposition to Deleuze’s intent, and instead has been easily hijacked by the Neoliberal’s modes of productivism, accumulation, and reproduction. Against this he proposes to attack what he terms the “greatest crime” – that of the joyousness of tolerance. Following Wendy Brown he sees this regulatory ethic of political correctness as part of the “grammar of empire,” a discourse of ethnic, racial, and sexual regulation, and as “an international discourse of Western imperialism on the other” (67).
Ultimately this new intolerance is not about becoming “obstinate,” rather it is about finding “new ways to end our suffocating perpetual present” (69). We have been cut off in an eternal present without future for some time now: what some term “presentism”: the notion of using or abusing past to validate ones own political beliefs. We heard this from the Neoliberals starting with the demise of Socialism in the old regimes of Soviet Russia and Maoist China. The notion of the End of History, no other alternative to capitalism, etc. This notion that we are now living in a totalistic or global civilization where there is no escape, no exit, etc. It’s against this false presentism that Andrew offers “escape,” saying:
“Escape need not be dreary, even if they are negative. Escape is never more exciting than when it spills out into the streets, where trust in appearances, trust in words, trust in each other, and trust in this world all disintegrate in a mobile zone of indiscernibility. It is in these moments of opacity, insufficiency, and breakdown that darkness most threatens the ties that bind us to this world. (70)”
Ultimately we must “all live double lives” (69): “The struggle is to keep one’s cover identity from taking over.” By which he means one’s life with one foot in the old world of neoliberal fakery and compromise, and the other foot moving into the flight path of escape, crafting “new weapons while withdrawing from the demands of the world” (69). I put it this way: We must build a new world out of the ruins of the old, dismantle the empire of the present global order from within, and dissolve its profit making system of toxic waste and disposability, violence and sacrifice; and, in its place construct, day by day, a world worthy of trust, respect, and care. A world where the natural and artificial, abstract and material labors of life promote sustenance, courage, and exacting tribute to the earth and animals we share this realm of life with.
- Chomsky, Noam. Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Kindle Locations 28-32). Seven Stories Press. Kindle Edition.
- Derber, Charles. Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States (Kindle Location 477). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
- Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton University Press, 2014)
- Charlie Leduff. Detroit: An American Autopsy (Kindle Locations 3215-3220). Penguin Press HC, The. Kindle Edition.
- Sassen, Saskia. Expulsions (Kindle Locations 39-44). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.
- Bales, Kevin. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (p. 4). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
- Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad. Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 84-91). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Wolin, Sheldon S.. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Kindle Locations 1102-1107). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
- Girard, René. Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) . Michigan State University Press. Kindle Edition.
- Read Dark Deleuze: https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/dark-deleuze
Today, the emblematic signs of the technopoesis that holds us in its sway are symptomatic of a future that will be marked less by the violence of an always imaginary apocalypse than by slow suicide. While Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Heidegger, and Arendt can console us, and perhaps even guide us, nothing has really prepared us for a future that will be fully entangled in the new technopoesis of accelerate and drift, with a still undetermined, deeply intermediated, aftermath of spectacular creativity, fierce violence, and unexpected crashes. For example, digital devices, once thought safely outside ourselves, have now broken barriers of skin and mind, shaping from within the deepest recesses of consciousness, desire, perception, and imagination. Whether at the level of philosophical meditation or personal sensibility, nothing has really prepared us to live out a deeply consequential future prefigured by the specters of drones, algorithms, image vectors, distributive consciousness, artificial intelligence, neurological implants, and humanoid robotics. What is required, perhaps, is an ethical preparation for the slow suicide of technological end-times that are now only just beginning along the watchtowers of fascination and despair, righteous anger and pleasurable nihilism, of speechless moral incredulity at observing the cynical pleasure by which the powerful inflict pain on the powerless, the weak, the poor – all those bodies that don’t matter – and passionate, maybe even, complicit mass resignation.1
- Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 20-21). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Interesting article on Stir I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump. She starts off:
“I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.”
I met the man who said those words while working as a bartender in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. It was a one-street town in Benton County. It had a beauty parlor, a gas station, and a bar where locals came on Friday nights to shoot the shit over cheap drinks and country music. I arrived in Arkansas by way of another little town in Louisiana, where all but a few local businesses had boarded up when Walmart moved in. In Arkansas, I was struggling to survive. I served drinks in the middle of the afternoon to people described as America’s “white underclass” — in other words, people just like me.
Read the article that might make you think twice: here!
Addendum… dmf pointed me to Barbara Ehrenreich:
Dead, White, and Blue
The Great Die-Off of America’s Blue Collar Whites
By Barbara Ehrenreich
The white working class, which usually inspires liberal concern only for its paradoxical, Republican-leaning voting habits, has recently become newsworthy for something else: according to economist Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the winner of the latest Nobel Prize in economics, its members in the 45- to 54-year-old age group are dying at an immoderate rate. While the lifespan of affluent whites continues to lengthen, the lifespan of poor whites has been shrinking. As a result, in just the last four years, the gap between poor white men and wealthier ones has widened by up to four years. The New York Times summed up the Deaton and Case study with this headline: “Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap.”
She says in closing: “It’s easy for the liberal intelligentsia to feel righteous in their disgust for lower-class white racism, but the college-educated elite that produces the intelligentsia is in trouble, too, with diminishing prospects and an ever-slipperier slope for the young. Whole professions have fallen on hard times, from college teaching to journalism and the law. One of the worst mistakes this relative elite could make is to try to pump up its own pride by hating on those — of any color or ethnicity — who are falling even faster.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, a TomDispatch regular and founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, is the author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (now in a 10th anniversary edition with a new afterword) and most recently the autobiographical Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything.
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Read Article: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176075/